Passion Week Tuesday: A Breath of Fresh Air


For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

1 Corinthians 1:18


The writer Sam Harris, in his recent book Free Will, makes the case that the perception of free will is nothing more than a mirage produced by our physical brains:


“Free will is an illusion. Our wills are simply not of our own making. How can we be ‘free’ as conscious agents if everything that we consciously intend is caused by events in our brain that we do not intend and of which we are entirely unaware?”

Sam Harris, Free Will 


Harris contends that human thought and desire are nothing more than chemical reactions in our central nervous system. These reactions are the consequence of previous chemical reactions and other random forces acting on our neural circuitry. Thus, if our actions are predetermined by what has happened before, free will is an illusion. And if there is no free will, the idea of sin and personal responsibility is a quaint and regressive idea.

But, I would counter that if there were no free will and no sin, then there is also no good or evil. What is more, there is no love, no beauty, and no joy. Friendship, music, and adventure are meaningless. They are simply illusions produced by our brain machines. Instead of human beings we are merely zombies—physical bodies without real feelings or emotions.

In contrast to this depressing (and increasingly pervasive) worldview, the message of the gospel seems like a breath of fresh air. The Scriptures affirm our humanity as ones created in God’s image. The idea that we are sinners is actually good news. It means that change is possible. It means that we can have hope in the transforming work of Christ, rather than be subject to karma or the random physical universe.  The writer of Romans said, “It is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance”.  Let us be thankful for this Kindness, Who gave us the freedom to choose. During this Passion Week, let us choose the path of repentance that leads us to the Cross, which is the power of God.


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